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Area health experts react to paused Johnson & Johnson vaccinations

“This is actually probably one of those signals that our safety mechanisms are working as designed,” said Dr. David Wild, VP of Performance Improvement for the University of Kansas Health Systems.

Posted: Apr 13, 2021 5:28 PM
Updated: Apr 14, 2021 10:28 AM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Tuesday, Missouri and Kansas taking up the advice of the FDA and CDC by pausing the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

The federal agencies recommended a temporary halt on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after six people received the shot reported a case of a 'rare and severe' blood clot. All cases were among women between the ages of 18 and 48 with symptoms occurring 6-13 days after taking the single dose vaccine.

While the suspension sounds alarming, the reaction comes from 6 out of 6.8 million total Johnson & Johnson vaccines administered. Area health officials said they aren't ready to sound off on the J&J vaccine just yet.

“You actually have a two times greater chance of being struck by lightning,” said Rex Robinson, Pharmacist at Rogers Pharmacy. 

The decision to pause the distribution of the single dose vaccine surprised Robinson as he said it's about a one in a million chance of developing a severe blood clot from receiving the shot. Regardless, the local pharmacist said he supports erring on the side of caution.

Robinson said, “I mean the incidence of blood clots with J&J is very small, not that it should be taken for granted but since there are other options to getting the vaccine, it makes sense to kind of pause it and evaluate it.”

Now, Rogers Pharmacy was stuck on the phone all day calling 250 patients sitting on the J&J waitlist to let them know the single shot dose is off the table for now. Rather than taking up the offer and switching to Moderna, the pharmacy said a lot of people are saving their spot in line for Johnson & Johnson. 

“Surprisingly to me anyway, a lot of people said, ‘I’ll just wait.’ A lot of people just like the idea of one shot saying, ‘I don’t want to have to come back at a specific time at a specific date and do this again,” said Robinson. 

For those who are vaccine hesitant, this news could confirm their fears that the vaccines were developed too quickly, but regional health experts said it actually should do the opposite. 

“This is actually probably one of those signals that our safety mechanisms are working as designed,” said Dr. David Wild, VP of Performance Improvement for the University of Kansas Health Systems. 

Adding to the point of added confidence to the country's safety checks in place, Dr. Dana Hawkinson , Medical Director of Infection Prevention and Control at The University of Kansas Health System said, “There are people up and awake 24 hours a day looking for these type of things to make sure it is safe for the people receiving the vaccines in your community.”

To date, Rogers Pharmacy has administered 500 shots of the J&J vaccine and have had zero severe side effects. Some short term symptoms have occurred with their two vaccines on hand, the single dose Johnson & Johnson and Moderna. However, Robinson said again, no severe symptoms. 

“We’ve had some reactions that are typical, headache, listlessness, tiredness, that type of thing but prolonged side effects- no, we really haven't,” said Robinson. 

For those who've recently taken the single dose J&J vaccine and suspect the 'rare and severe' blood clot, Robinson said watch out for severe headaches, leg pain and shortness of breath and to call your doctor. 

Area health departments also report zero severe reactions to the J&J vaccine.

The St. Joseph Health Department reports they've administered zero Johnson & Johnson vaccines at their area clinics. Atchison County Health Department said they gave out 220 doses and the Tri-County Health Department received 250 doses of the single shot vaccine.

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